Luke Mangan quoted “My most memorable dishes, are the ones I’ve shared with friends” which is most likely his inspiration behind the new tapas menu at his Gold Coast venture Salt grill by Luke Mangan, tucked away in the exclusive Hilton Surfers Paradise.
A recent article posed the question, “Is fine dining dead?”. If even the fine dining kings are incorporating tapas into their menus, maybe it is.
Our beach community prides itself on our laid back lifestyle. So what happens when a fine dining restaurant such as Salt grill mixes in with the not-so-fine-dining tapas culture? Could that possibly work?
Much like Luke Mangan’s philosophy with food, the decor has a clean and contemporary twist.
The open kitchen previewing chefs in traditional chefs attire, large circular windows sit behind thick chain link curtains, white table cloths sit atop every table, and the salt and pepper shakers are precisely placed, so the salt faces the ocean. As you sit down, the waiter places a napkin in your lap and asks the classic ‘still, sparkling or tap’ question. All the makings of a fine dining establishment.
Steak for men in suits and cocktails for women with perfectly quaffed hair; terribly cliché but on point. Clearly a successful fine dining strategy, why jump on the tapas bandwagon now? Surely the couple ordering a bottle of Verve would not break away from the caviar or truffled mushroom foam. Would they?
As soon as the first tapas delights were brought to the table it was incredibly clear why not only was this going to work, it was going to thrive. Fine dining is usually reserved for dates or special occasions. With both, the purpose of the dinner is to connect with fellow diners. Sharing simple elegant food is a fantastic way to do that. It sparks conversation and with the addition of Sangria and specifically paired drinks. It was clear the new tapas menu was designed to be delicious and to create a shared experience amongst diners.
The dishes were simple and full of flavour.
The elegant scallops atop black pudding and butternut puree were buttery, rich and petite. Quick to follow were the tempura oysters with wasabi mayo were crispy, meaty and had a surprise bed of wakame. The mini seafood fork still made an appearance in true fine dining style.
The Tempura Prawn Duo was served with a coconut lime Asian slaw, but with a bit of lemon grass. Sitting atop a creamy peanut sauce, this Thai influenced dish was crunchy, zesty and light.
What we would consider the main fare was a Braised Wagyu short rib accompanied by a green papaya & peanut slaw and Moroccan lamb cutlets topped with capers, raisin puree, hazelnuts and broccolini. We could taste the spicy sweet, tear apart short rib and the cool crunch from the papaya slaw. The lamb was tender with pops of salt from the capers and lots of crunch from the hazelnuts.
Our incredibly knowledgeable waitress made fantastic wine pairings on our behalf for our tapas dinner. We started with a crisp sauvignon blanc to accompany the seafood and moved on to a pinot noir to savour the red meat. We were impressed to see an unpretentious wine list which included a selection of chilled reds, no snobbery here, it’s the Gold Coast, it’s hot, we’ll drink the wine how we want! Our dessert was paired with a fantastic dessert wine.
A platter of petit fours, Créme Brûlée, a Churro and gold dusted Semifreddo were served for dessert. Of the petit fours, we were especially impressed by the Passionfruit purée Waffle Cones and the traditional rose Turkish Delights.
Oh and one more thing, the tapas menu is at a surprisingly low price that most can afford.
Level 1, Hilton Surfers Paradise, 6 Orchid Avenue
Surfers Paradise, QLD
By Marleigh Kelly